NEBRASKA CITY – The Nebraska Public Service Commission took evidence Wednesday suggesting area farmers have lost over $400,000 after entering contracts with an Auburn grain dealer.
Director of the Public Service Commission’s grain staff John Fecht said the state recognizes claims from 14 grain producers as valid, and said Leroy Able has a grain security bond that could pay about half the amount owed.
However, Fecht said, state law requires farmers to demand payment within 15-days of the last load delivered to be eligible for the bond safeguards.
None of the 14 farmers who made claims at the Auburn City Hall Wednesday made a request within the 15-day period, so the PSC commission could rule them ineligible for the bond funds.
Fecht said Able was first licensed as a grain dealer in August 2012 and surrendered his license on May 1.
To maintain a license, Nebraska grain dealers must submit a year-end financial report. One day after the report was due, Able surrendered his license.
Coatney: “You said you assumed that his financial statement was correct, which we assumed that we would get paid, you know, for our grain.”
Fecht said he wishes Able would submit a financial report that might shed some light on what happened to the money owed to area farmers, but said Able is not required to do so.
Attorney Joseph Wilkins of Mattson-Ricketts attended the meeting and sat near Leroy and Valerie Able. He intervened when a farmer from the front row turned to the back row and asked Able what happened to the money.
District 2 Commissioner Crystal Rhoades, a former board chairman of Metropolitan Community College, said she is disturbed by the unpaid grain deliveries and encouraged people to get the State Legislature involved in strengthening protections for grain producers.
Others expressed concern at the meeting how the local farmers could sustain the loss of $400,000 and how it would impact the local economy.
Farmers and total claims are:
Beverly Allen, Auburn, $777
Dave Clarke, Bellevue, $1,554
John Coatney, Peru, $23,367
Marilyn Coatney, Peru, $9,955
Scott Coatney, Peru, $9,955
Jim Kite, Auburn, $49,350
Kara Kugler, Lincoln, $14,327
Ramsey Farms, Auburn, $51,188
Stan Stutheit, Syracuse, $4,663
Francis Seid, Falls City, $100,850
Kevin Wheeler, Auburn, $40,892
K and J Wheeler, Auburn, $99,709
Connie Biggers, Ojai, Calif., $2,815.
Although the Public Service Commission has not made an official determination, farmers were told that the 15 days would be the sole criteria used to determine eligibility.
Seid has filed a lawsuit in Nemaha County District Court alleging that Able agreed to pay $3.65 per bushel for 41,000 bushels and the yellow corn was delivered by May of 2016.
Seid’s complaint says Able failed to supervise his officers and employees and failed to pay for the grain.